Growing Your Own Rabbit Feed

As anyone who has visted my blog at Little Tassie Prepper would know, I breed many animals, one of these being rabbits.  I felt that it would be wise to investigate other methods to feed my rabbits over the winter months.  When it is summer my rabbits usually live on grass and other grown produce, with some rabbit pellets thrown in.  During winter I have little option but to feed the rabbits almost entirely on pellets.  I decided that it would be much better for the rabbits health and well-being if I used fodder to provide them with a better diet.  In addition, I considered the cost of purchasing pellets.  A 20kg bag of pellets costs me around $30, which lasts around 2 -3 weeks.  A 20kg bag of barley casts me around $18, and lasts around 2 months.  This is an obvious saving of money.  The above reasons have led me to create my own fodder system.  My experiments info fodder growing were inspired by Quartz Ridge Ranch.

My system is intended to be able to take up as little space as possible, be affordable, and not take much effort to maintain.  I would not suggest that my system is better than any other… it is just one that I found worked well for me.  The items required are:

2x 2 or 3 tier, indoor, mini-greenhouses.  I have included an image above to demonstrate what I mean.
1x watering can
1x 20kg bag of Barley grain
1x 10ltr bucket
(which I call my soaking bucket)
12x 10ltr storage containers (which I call my growing containers)
Measuring cup (to get the right amount of grain.  It doesn’t have to be a real measuring cup, as long as you use the same type of measurement).
Water


I specify 10 litre containers here, yet it isn't really important.  I have experimented with 8 litre up to 28 litre containers.  I have found that 10 litre containers are better for my purposes as they produce a nice amount of fodder for my rabbits, can be easily divided, and produces an dense structure of grains.  Using larger containers produces less dense structures, yet they have great growth and may be easier to remove from the storage containers.  I would recommend you experiment with sizes.

Step 1:

I have my mini greenhouses in the front room of my house, where they get plenty of sunlight.  Having access to sunlight will increase the nutritional value of the fodder.  I find that I can fit around three 10 liter containers per shelf.

The whole process begins with the soaking of Barley grains.  This is the step which will aid in activating the grains to grow.  Into the large soaking bucket I place twelve cups of barley grain, and pour around 5 liters of water on top.  Basically enough water to cover the grains and a few centimetres over that (this will ensure that when the grains swell up they are still covered by water).  I then place this to the side to soak for at least 48 hours.


Two days later I am ready for the next stage.  I drain the water from the soaking bucket so that there is almost no water left.   I then take two 10 ltr containers for growing the fodder and I divide the soaked grain into these two containers.  I level out the contents so that the grain is evenly distributed and then I place the growing containers into the mini-greenhouse.

Now that the soaking bucket is empty I rinse it out and refill it with 12 cups of grain and 5 liters of water.  Once again placing it aside for 48 hours.


Every second day, when I create a new batch of soaked grain, I work on the stages of the fodder process.  This whole process begins works on the idea of creating two containers ever two days, which is a more efficient use of my time, so I would recommend this to you.  The process usually takes between 10-15 minutes.

Step 2:

Two days later it is time to get busy.  Once again I drain the water from the soaking bucket and divide the contents into two growing containers.  These are then placed into the mini-greenhouses.  I once more rinse out the soaking bucket and fill it with 12 cups of grain and around 5 litres of water (sufficient to cover the grain with a few centimetres extra).  Now it is time to add some water to the already growing fodder grains.  I do this by filling the watering can and I pour enough water into each of the growing containers to cover the grain and let it sit and soak in for around a minute.  You can usually hear a slight hissing or popping sound as the water works its way into the drying grains.  I then drain the water out of the growing container. 

This step will provide valuable water to the grain to allow it to grow.  Without adding water the grain will germinate, yet there will be no significant growth.   I also gently mix the contents around in the container, ensuring that there is a more equal distribution of grain to gather sunlight.  I would only do thise if the germinated grains are not locked together in their growth.... so normally only in the first six days. 

I go through the above process process until I have filled all 12 growing containers with grain.  By this stage we should be at day 12 and the first two containers you prepared on day 2 should be ready for use.  I normally remove the fodder from the container and wash the container out as you do not want to encourage mold growth which can be harmful or fatal to animals.  I then divide the fodder to share between my rabbits (I use an old saw to cut the fodder in to sections).

This process then continues, with the stages of soaking the grain, draining the grain to allow it to grow, watering it every second day till it has grown enough to be used by your animals. 

If you are interested in seeing the process to the creation of this system, my inspiration for the system, or just curious about my animals, please check out my blog at Little Tassie Prepper.

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    27 Discussions

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    I have soaked barley for 48hours, but it smells. Is it ok or something wrong by me. I soak it in closed transparent container.

    1 reply

    Try to soak it in an open container. Closing the lid will promote the growth of anaerobic, aka foul-smelling and oxygen-disliking, bacteria.

    Hi Muhammad, I would recommend looking at my newer Instructable called "Improved Fodder Growth System" I have modified my original design, which requires less time to soak (24 hours).

    The reason why it smells could be related to many things. Is it very hot where you are? Have you been growing fodder in the bucket (or have other things in there) which could mean there is a build up of contaminents? I would suggest ensuring the containers are scrubed with a dishwasher type cleaner and go again... yet only allow them to soak for up to 24 hours. Also make sure they are not too hot.

    Hope that helps.

    With the containers I was using for this, it was able to feed four large rabbits (I breed British Giants, which are some of the largest available). I don't know about other breeds, so if you try this I would be interested in learning of your results.

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    BradleyS3

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Try some 'Tropic Sun' sunn hemp. The only tested variety of sunn hemp to be non-toxic to animals. It is a fast growing legume that adds over 137lbs of nitrogen per acre. It is high in protein 25-30%. Our rabbit loves it over any other fresh crops we give her, even oats!!

    1 reply
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    bluecrabsummer

    3 years ago

    I am curious why you gave the entire (grass and root). if you gave them just so they would only eat grass then the grass would regrow.

    1 reply

    I have found that the amount of regrowth is minimal, and not really worth the time. It is just a time management thing.

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    AmyD27

    3 years ago

    Do you add any supplements to the animals diet like salt or minerals?

    1 reply
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    Little Tassie PrepperAmyD27

    Reply 2 years ago

    I suppliment this with normal animal feed. It is too much effort for me to provide all the animals needs, so the fodder is meant to provide some of their nutrients (as well as feed them so they are well fed). Commercially obtained food provides the remainder of their requirements, which I provide to them a couple of days a week.

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    KimH138

    2 years ago

    I would love to grow fodder for my rabbits, I live in Massachusetts and I can not find any place that sells seeds for this. In fact I have received some strange looks when I start talking about growing fodder. Any suggestions? Where do u buy ur seeds, maybe I could contact them directly. Thank you
    Kim Harrington

    1 reply
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    Little Tassie PrepperKimH138

    Reply 2 years ago

    I buy the seeds from a local animal feed place, which is in Tasmania, Australia. In America I would recommend contacting a similar business, one which provides feed for farmstock (especially horses). I did a Google search for farm animal supply stores in Massachusetts and there were many available.

    I would suggest not mentioning why you want the grain, just ask for "whole barley grain". Check my latest Instructable for an image of the grain bag I buy.

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    LovedbyHim

    2 years ago

    I do this with wheat berry kernals for my ducks... can rabbits eat the wheat grass?

    In your pic of the barley grain in the blue bucket it looks like there are dried beans in w/the barley, is there? if so, how long do you grow them?

    thanks for sharing

    1 reply

    I have fed my Rabbits wheat grass, and there were no problems. I prefer the barley for fodder as I feel the results are faster.

    That dried bean was an accidental addition to the bucket (it fell in there) and once I noticed it I decided to see what would happen. The seed did sprout, yet there wasn't much time for it to grow before it was fed to the rabbits.

    I have just created an update version of this Instructable, it might be of interest to you.

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    JodiA11

    2 years ago

    So if you have an over abundance of fodder, is there a way to dry/preserve it for leaner times? If I grow in the spring/summer/early fall can I dry this to feed during the winter?

    Hi Bunneystell. I feed the whole block of fodder to the rabbits, so it doesn't grow any more after that. I am in the process of testing out cutting the shoots that grow from the seeds, to see if if regrows. I will post an update here when I have some results.

    Hi Bunnystell, I tried out the method of cutting the growth that comes from the seeds, and it did grow back... so that was a plus. I don't know if this will provide you with much use.

    The amount I gained by cutting the growth was very low, with several days wait till it grew back to the pre-cut length.

    It was a lot of effort to cut them, with little gain.

    Finally, by having the seeds in the container for longer, I was seeing a rise in unwanted growth (such as mold). The fodder also started to smell.

    In summary, you would get extra food from cutting the growth, but I feel that it was a lot more effort for a very small amount of gain. With the price of the seeds being so low, it wouldn't really make sense to do this.